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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Report of the Secretary of Defense Task Force on DoD Nuclear Weapons Management

Phase II: Review of the DoD Nuclear Mission

December 2008

Executive Summary


    • Incidents related to the Air Force’s mishandling of nuclear weapons and components led to the creation of the Task Force in June 2008 to provide advice on nuclear matters for the Secretary of Defense. (See Appendix A.) This review was to be conducted in two phases: Phase I reviewed the Air Force’s nuclear mission and was completed in September 2008; Phase II was directed at the stewardship of the nuclear mission more broadly throughout the Department of Defense (DoD). This report covers Phase II findings and recommendations.

    • In the Phase I investigation, the Task Force found a serious erosion of senior-level attention, focus, expertise, mission readiness, resources, and discipline in the nuclear weapons mission area within the Air Force. Based on several previous investigations, the Air Force had already begun addressing problems in several key areas related to the nuclear mission. With the addition of findings from this Task Force, the Air Force developed its Strategic Plan to Reinvigorate the Air Force Nuclear Enterprise. Released on October 24, 2008, the strategic plan directs the Air Force’s implementation of over 100 actions to restore the efficacy of its nuclear mission responsibilities. Moreover, the Air Force has moved forward with actions relating to 30 of the 33 Task Force Phase I recommendations. The Task Force recommendations not implemented by the Air Force Strategic Plan (involving deployment of critical nuclear personnel) are to be addressed through increased manning authorizations. The Task Force commends the Air Force for its immediate and responsive attention to the issues identified in the Phase I Report.

    • In Phase II, the Task Force found that the lack of interest in and attention to the nuclear mission and nuclear deterrence, as discussed in our Phase I report, go well beyond the Air Force. This lack of interest and attention have been widespread throughout DoD and contributed to the decline of attention in the Air Force. This report details policy, organizational, and procedural issues that must be addressed across DoD in order to retain disciplined and effective nuclear forces. Implementation of the recommendations contained herein can help ensure a credible nuclear deterrent for the United States and our friends and allies, now and into the foreseeable future. A list of Phase II recommendations appears in Appendix B.


Understanding U.S. Deterrence Policy

    • Current U.S. nuclear deterrence policy as set forth in a series of National Security Strategy and National Defense Strategy documents from 2001 to 2008 can be summarized as calling for safe, credible, and reliable offensive nuclear forces and defensive measures capable of deterring attacks against the United States, its vital interests, allies, and friends. These deterrence forces are tailored to fit particular threats and respond to a broad array of challenges to international security. Four specific missions for our nuclear establishment include: (1) deter weapons of mass destruction (WMD) threats, (2) assure allies of our continuing commitment to their security, (3) dissuade potential adversaries from embarking on programs or activities that could threaten our vital interests, and (4) defeat threats that are not deterred.

    • The strategic role of nuclear capability is to deter and dissuade current and emergent enemies from attacking the United States and its vital interests. To be successful in this critical national objective, the nation’s nuclear forces must be demonstrative and credible, and—to be so—survivable against a preemptive attack. This combination of capability, credibility, and survivability presents high uncertainty to a potential adversary in attempting to anticipate the success of executing one or more courses of action.

      o In formulating our national security strategy and national military strategy, the Task Force recommends that the incoming administration develop a strategic framework defining the unique role of nuclear weapons in deterring threats to the United States, our key interests, and our allies. The Task Force believes this framework would serve as an excellent foundation for the upcoming Nuclear Posture Review and Quadrennial Defense Review.

      • The United States has extended its nuclear protective umbrella to 30-plus friends and allies as an expression of commitment and common purpose as well as a disincentive for proliferation.

    • The value of our deterrent is not primarily a function of the number of our warheads, but rather of the credibility of our nuclear capabilities in the minds of those we seek to deter, dissuade, or assure. To achieve its psychological and political objectives of deterring opponents and reassuring allies, deterrence requires nuclear capabilities that are visible and credible.

    • The Task Force found a distressing degree of inattention to the role of nuclear weapons in deterrence among many senior DoD military and civilian leaders. Many lack the foundation of experience for understanding nuclear deterrence, its psychological content, its political nature, and its military role—which is to avoid the use of nuclear weapons. A lack of education on nuclear deterrence has contributed to this problem. This shortfall of experience and understanding will become even more acute among senior leaders in the future.

      o Strengthening the credibility of our nuclear deterrent should begin at the White House. To that end, the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of Energy should periodically brief the President with a review of nuclear capabilities and forces.

      o The Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, in collaboration with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, should initiate a series of analyses and senior seminar wargames to enhance understanding of nuclear deterrence and to develop new strategies and operational concepts regarding the role of nuclear weapons in deterrence.

      o Renewed emphasis should be placed on education in and advancement of deterrence theory, strategy, and policy. These concepts should be required in the curricula at all levels of DoD professional development.

      o Sufficient resources should be allocated to DoD components involved in efforts to increase the capability for nuclear detection and attribution. Other parts of the U.S. Government should also be involved in these efforts.

Deterrence: The Special Case of NATO

    • The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) represents a special case for deterrence, both because of history and the presence of nuclear weapons. Even though the number of weapons is modest when compared to total inventories—especially Russian inventories of tactical weapons—the presence of U.S. nuclear weapons in Europe remains a pillar of NATO unity. The deployment of nuclear weapons in Europe is not a Service or regional combatant command issue—it is an Alliance issue. As long as NATO members rely on U.S. nuclear weapons for deterrence—and as long as they maintain their own dual-capable aircraft as part of that deterrence—no action should be taken to remove them without a thorough and deliberate process of consultation.

      o The Department of Defense, in coordination with the Department of State, should engage its appropriate counterparts among NATO Allies in reassessing and confirming the role of nuclear weapons in Alliance strategy and policy for the future.

      o The Department of Defense should ensure that the dual-capable F-35 remains on schedule. Further delays would result in increasing levels of political and strategic risk and reduced strategic options for both the United States and the Alliance.

DoD Management

Office of the Secretary of Defense Organization

    • The Task Force found widespread fragmentation, dispersal of responsibility, and weakening of authorities in the Office of the Secretary of Defense’s (OSD) management of the nuclear mission and the nuclear weapons mission area. The decline in management attention to nuclear matters is evidenced by a dramatically reduced workforce, fragmentation of nuclear policy and guidance responsibility across the office, dilution of organizational focus because of proliferating missions, and relegation of nuclear-focused organizations to positions of lower authority. The remaining workforce lacks both depth and breadth of nuclear expertise.

      o The Secretary of Defense should establish an Assistant Secretary of Defense for Deterrence (ASD(D)) in the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy (OUSD(P). The Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Deterrence (PDASD(D)) should be an acquisition professional and should be dual-hatted within the OUSD(AT&L). All existing OUSD(P) offices that deal with nuclear, chemical, biological and missile defense issues should be realigned under the new ASD; similarly, the functions of the ATSD(NCB) (to include oversight of the Defense Threat Reduction Agency) should be assumed by the new ASD.

      o The Secretary of Defense should expand the responsibilities of the Nuclear Weapons Council to include issues involving the full range of nuclear capabilities, including weapons, delivery systems, infrastructure, policy implementation, and resources, under the chairmanship of the Deputy Secretary of Defense.

      o The Secretary of Defense should assign directorship of the Nuclear Command and Control System Support Staff (NSS) to the newly formed ASD(D).

Nuclear Capabilities Modernization and Sustainment

    • A holistic view of nuclear deterrence is neither reflected in policy guidance nor in acquisition decisions made by OSD and the Services. The current Capabilities Portfolio Management and Joint Capabilities Integrated Development System (JCIDS) processes are not designed to address deterrence as a unique capability. Although the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology & Logistics (USD(AT&L) was able to secure increased resources for the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) in FY09, nuclear deterrence capabilities and requirements are largely disregarded in the DoD competition for resources. This is especially evident in nuclear capabilities such as those provided by the Air-Launched Cruise Missile (ALCM) and Tomahawk Land-Attack Missile–Nuclear (TLAM-N). No long-range nuclear capabilities roadmap exists for ensuring the sustainment and modernization of nuclear weapons, weapons systems and delivery platforms.

      o The Secretary of Defense should direct the NWC as newly rechartered to develop and maintain a nuclear capabilities roadmap for the modernization and sustainment of the nuclear deterrent force (deterrence policy, forces, and infrastructure). This roadmap should include specific recommended timelines.

    • Responsive infrastructure capabilities are not adequately addressed in the Department of Defense acquisition process. The scientific base supporting strategic nuclear deterrence capabilities, a key enabler for the design and sustainment of nuclear weapons and delivery platforms, has substantially eroded. There is legitimate near-term concern about the nation’s ability to design and build nuclear warheads, given the past and prospective loss of intellectual capital and critical skills.

      o USD(P) and USD(AT&L) should ensure that guidance documents address nuclear deterrence and infrastructure capabilities, respectively.

      o The Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff (CJCS) should revise the JCIDS instructions to elevate deterrence capabilities to the same level as those for force employment. The Deputy Secretary of Defense should likewise revise the Capabilities Portfolio Management process.

    • Since the 1990s, there has been a shedding of nuclear capabilities by the Military Services. Such efforts are sometimes abetted by combatant commands and by service components in order to free up resources to use elsewhere. In some cases, the Services have perfected the art of starving a capability in order to justify shedding the associated mission, a phenomenon the Task Force observed in other areas, not just nuclear programs. For example, the criterion employed by some in the military for procuring a weapons system (specifically TLAM-N, ALCM, and dual-capable aircraft, especially in NATO) is whether it is “militarily costeffective.” This ignores the weapon’s political value, overlooking the crucial deterrence and assurance elements that these nuclear deployments and capabilities provide. Nuclear deterrence is inherently a national mission, and neither a military service nor a combatant commander should make unilateral decisions regarding whether to retain particular nuclear capabilities.

      o The Secretary of Defense should direct the ASD(D) to conduct a capability assessment of nuclear deterrence. The Secretary of Defense should also direct CJCS to develop validated operational requirements for providing those capabilities to include modernizing or replacing the capabilities now provided by Dual-Capable Aircraft (DCA), ALCM, and TLAM-N.

      o USD(P) should ensure that policy guidance documents define and emphasize the unique contributions made to deterrence by theater nuclear capabilities. These documents should specifically address the view of the 30-plus nations enjoying the benefit of the U.S. nuclear umbrella.

      o The Task Force recommends that ASD(D) be responsible for oversight of funding execution of nuclear capabilities. This is to be accomplished by the creation of a new capability portfolio comprising all program elements directly related to nuclear deterrence, whether currently categorized in Major Force Program-1 (MFP-1) or elsewhere in the defense program and budget structure.

Nuclear Mission Oversight and Inspection

    • A rigorous inspection process is critical to maintaining a credible U.S. deterrent. However, the Task Force believes a significant shortfall exists in the DoD nuclear surety inspection process. DTRA currently inspects nuclear-capable Air Force and Navy units concurrent with the applicable Service evaluation team during a Defense Nuclear Surety Inspection (DNSI). DNSIs are largely duplicative because they overlap significantly with Service-conducted nuclear surety inspections, evaluating the same tasks using the same criteria. Surveillance Inspections, where DTRA evaluates Service inspection processes, have demonstrated their value as a more productive method for providing thorough, independent oversight of the Services’ adherence to nuclear surety standards.

      o The Secretary of Defense should direct DTRA to conduct only Service Proficiency Evaluations (formerly Surveillance Inspections) to ensure uniform DoD oversight of each Service’s nuclear surety program by “inspecting the inspector.” The Services would be solely responsible for rating the units while DTRA would only assess and rate the performance of the inspection team, not the unit.

    • The Task Force found that Navy nuclear inspection processes are appropriate for fleet and associated shore facilities, but that the TACAMO (Take Charge and Move Out) air wing nuclear-related command and control mission capability is not adequately inspected.

      o The Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) should develop inspection programs for the E-6B TACAMO wing to ensure operational readiness and Personnel Reliability Program compliance for forces provided to U.S. Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM). Inspection intervals should mirror those of the fleet ballistic missile submarines and associated shore facilities.

DoD Forces

The Navy’s Nuclear Mission Stewardship

    • The Task Force found that the Navy has maintained its commitment to the nuclear mission, although there is evidence of some “fraying around the edges.”

    • Although the Navy has several times been directed by the Secretary of Defense to maintain the TLAM-N program until a follow-on capability is developed, the Navy has failed to take the actions necessary to implement this decision. The matter was considered by the Deputy’s Advisory Working Group (DAWG), with a decision deferred to the next administration. The situation requires Secretary of Defense involvement to monitor implementation of the decision.

      o The Secretary of the Navy should conduct a comprehensive program review of TLAM-N and direct the Navy Acquisition Executive to develop a plan to maintain TLAM-N and to develop follow-on capabilities that can be fielded prior to expiration of TLAM-N effectiveness. Should there be a gap, the Navy should be directed to maintain TLAM-N to extend its service life to coincide with introduction of the new system.

      o Joint Staff (J5) should review and update the concept of operations for the TLAM-N system to make it a more responsive option for the national leadership during times of potential hostilities.

    • Recognizing a need to strengthen the oversight of the nuclear enterprise in the Navy, the CNO has directed the establishment of an OPNAV Nuclear Weapons Council (NWC) and a Senior Leadership Oversight Council (SLOC). The Task Force endorses these senior-level oversight groups and recommends the following additional actions to improve oversight of the Navy’s nuclear weapons enterprise.

      o The Secretary of the Navy should establish a requirement for a biennial selfassessment of the Navy nuclear weapons enterprise.

      o The Secretary of the Navy should expand the role of the Director of SSP as the single authority for nuclear weapons programs and operations, and elevate the position of the SSP to a three-star billet with appropriately increased staffing and authorities to oversee the Navy nuclear weapons enterprise.

    • With all remaining nuclear weapons concentrated in the fleet ballistic-missile submarine (SSBN) force, a significant future challenge for the Navy will be an inevitable decline in nuclear weapons and policy expertise at the flag officer level among officers from other branches.

      o The Secretary of the Navy should direct a nuclear weapon enterprise manning and experience study to examine the shrinking experience base—particularly among aviation and surface Navy officers—forecast the trends, and provide appropriate recommendations.

      o The CNO should review and expand professional military education curricula on concepts of nuclear deterrence, strategy, planning, and operational theory.

      o The CNO should require a greater number of Naval officers to complete appropriate educational programs to sustain expertise required to support leadership and staff billets in deterrence policy and strategy positions as well as nuclear operations and technical matters. Such qualifications would be tracked by subspecialty codes.

    • Navy manning and resourcing for the SSBN mission are robust. However, the Task Force sees reason for concern for the near-term future in the following areas:

      ? Unit and individual performance, over time, will be adversely affected by reduced manning at Trident Training Facilities, SSBN operational shore-based staffs, and SSP commands and facilities. Similarly, the performance of TACAMO aircrew and staffs will be adversely affected over time.

      ? The Continuing Evaluation Program (CEP)/Strategic Communications Assessment Programs (SCAP) provide crucial analysis of the communications performance of the SSBN fleet and Nuclear Command and Control System (NCCS). However, CEP/SCAP programs already have been cut approximately 50 percent from the FY00 base year.

      ? TACAMO mission support equipment and trainers are not adequately resourced.

      Navy senior leadership should:

        o Conduct an assessment of the personnel assignments at the two Trident Training Facilities and provide adequate manning to support the unique concept of operations for the SSBN platform in addition to all the other training requirements levied on these facilities.

        o Implement the proposals for additional manpower billets required to restore SSBN squadrons and submarine groups, including the reestablishment of the group commander positions and full staffs on both coasts.

        o Review TACAMO wing manning and billet funding status to ensure the wings are appropriately manned at 100 percent of “wartime” levels.

        o Review SSP civilian and military manning and provide sufficient resources for proper oversight in light of additional missions.

        o Restore funding to the Type Commander (TYCOM) requested levels for the CEP and SCAP to meet all Combatant Command (COCOM) requirements.

        o Fully resource all support elements for the TACAMO mission, including trainers and mobile reconstitution capability equipment.

    • The Task Force found the SSBN force and supporting organizations highly motivated and fully engaged in their mission. However, very little intelligence support is provided to units. Greater access to intelligence related to their nuclear mission would enhance their sense of purpose and understanding of the mission.

      o The CNO should direct the establishment of one intelligence officer manpower authorization, at a minimum, for each of the Trident submarine groups.


    • Mission proliferation and headquarters downsizing have taken a significant toll on the ability of USSTRATCOM to maintain sufficient focus on nuclear deterrence. The Command’s leadership has recognized this overall decline and the imperative to restore the appropriate level of emphasis to this critical mission. The Command has recently established a one-star flag/general officer position focused exclusively on the nuclear mission.

      o The Secretary of Defense should reduce the number of missions assigned to USSTRATCOM, limiting them primarily to the deterrence, global strike, and space missions. USSTRATCOM should continue to be the primary joint enabler for the integrated missile defense and combating weapons of mass destruction missions.

      o The position of Commander, USSTRATCOM, if at all possible, should be filled with a general or flag officer with significant operational nuclear experience.

      o The Secretary of Defense should direct a review of headquarters/Joint Functional Component Commands manpower and organizational structure of USSTRATCOM. The review should identify the manpower and organizational changes necessary to ensure that the command and its components are adequately resourced and structured to execute USSTRATCOM’s nuclear mission responsibilities effectively.

      o The Secretary of Defense, through the Unified Command Plan, should institutionalize the role of USSTRATCOM as the lead combatant command advocating for capability development, requirements, and resources for both strategic and theater nuclear systems.


    • The United States European Command (USEUCOM), long the principal advocate for nuclear weapons in Europe, now abstains from its advocacy role. It no longer recognizes the political role of U.S. nuclear weapons within the Alliance. USEUCOM’s nuclear planning staff has been allowed to atrophy to the point where it has been diluted to unacceptable levels. Although USEUCOM has concerns about the cost of securing these weapons, the Task Force believes these costs are commensurate with the importance of the mission. The Task Force also notes that the security of weapons in Europe meets or exceeds both U.S. and NATO security standards.

      o USEUCOM staff with nuclear weapons responsibilities should be fully manned with nuclear-experienced personnel. The staff should be appropriately sized to enable the performance of adequate levels of nuclear planning and development of concepts of operation in line with U.S. and NATO policy by the end of FY10.

    • The U.S. Air Forces in Europe (USAFE) nuclear weapons mission area suffers from many of the same resourcing and expertise difficulties described in the Task Force Phase I report. Nevertheless, the Task Force found the commitment of USAFE Airmen to the safe and secure storage of nuclear weapons in Europe to be encouraging.

      o The Secretary of the Air Force should direct that USAFE retain control of the Weapons Storage Security Systems (WS3) in Europe rather than placing them under control of the Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center (as will be the case for Weapons Storage Areas in the United States).

      o The Chief of Staff of the Air Force should direct the Air Force Education and Training Command to train all aircrew that will be assigned to DCA to be fully qualified in nuclear operations upon completion of initial qualification. All previously qualified aircrew must be retrained and certified prior to arrival on station to a nuclear tasked unit by the end of FY09.

      o All new USAF Weapons School graduates from dual-capable systems (F-15E, F-16, B-52, and B-2) should acquire and demonstrate at least the same level of proficiency in nuclear weapons employment as they currently achieve in conventional operations. This certification and training process should be in place by the end of FY09.

Geographic Combatant Commanders

    • Since 1992, the nuclear planning capabilities of the Geographic Combatant Commands (GCCs) have been significantly reduced or eliminated. The Task Force noted gaps in the interfaces between USSTRATCOM and the GCCs as a consequence of the centralization of nuclear planning, execution, and advocacy for nuclear capabilities at USSTRATCOM.

      o The CJCS should perform a comprehensive review of the relationship between USSTRATCOM and the GCCs regarding their respective roles in nuclear deterrence planning, requirements, and execution. The review should make recommendations for strengthening GCC focus, expertise, and participation in fulfilling their responsibilities for nuclear deterrence as well as identify appropriate mechanisms for collaborating with USSTRATCOM.

Joint Staff

    • The Joint Staff is now a minimal contributor to the nuclear deterrence process. The CJCSsponsored exercise program rarely links OSD, Combatant Command, or Agency exercises with nuclear-related training objectives. The Joint Staff no longer conducts offensive nuclear analysis and modeling, relying instead on USSTRATCOM and DTRA to provide this expertise. The net effect of this diminished involvement in nuclear issues has been a Joint Staff that is significantly disadvantaged when it comes to influencing the development of nuclear deterrence capabilities, decisions regarding force levels, and participation in the operational planning process. This has also resulted in the decreased capability of the Joint Staff to support the Chairman in providing the best military advice on nuclear issues to the President.

      o The Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff should designate a flag-level officer on the Joint Staff whose sole focus is the nuclear mission. Staffing and resourcing for the Joint Staff functions of nuclear strategy, plans, policies, exercises, and analysis should be increased.

      o The Joint Staff should sponsor senior level exercises on three levels: within the military, military/OSD, and whole of government.


    • The Army retains core nuclear subject matter expertise and has distributed nuclear-trained officers throughout the DoD nuclear mission area to provide expertise for Joint Forces that may operate on hostile nuclear/radiological battlefields. The U.S. Army Nuclear and Combating Weapons of Mass Destruction Agency (USANCA) provides nuclear employment and counter-WMD capabilities, survivability, planning, training, and analysis functions. USANCA manages the Army’s cadre of personnel with technical nuclear education and skills.

      o The Army Chief of Staff should continue to support USANCA’s contributions to the DoD nuclear mission and ensure the continued viability of the Nuclear and Counterproliferation Officer (FA52) career field.


    • One must not forget the psychological element of deterrence—it is in the eye of the beholder. But deterrence requires real and observable capability. Avoiding actual weapons employment is the purpose of deterrence. It requires a declaratory policy, visibility, and the will to carry out our expressed intent.

    • Developing and sustaining nuclear deterrence capabilities require strong DoD leadership. Senior officials must be actively engaged in the nuclear weapons mission. Unless there is high-level attention, articulation, and oversight by the Secretary of Defense, the Department’s motivation to sustain the deterrent may be weakened and resources diverted elsewhere. Senior military and civilian personnel focused on the nuclear mission, as recommended in this report, will significantly contribute to maintaining high morale and competency for this important national mission.

    • To be fully credible, the role of nuclear deterrence should be firmly articulated by the White House itself. Deterrence has worked because the U.S. Government and its allies have supported it with resources and leadership. Deterrence must continue to have such support, including the visible public commitment of the President, the White House, as well as the Department of Defense.

    • The changing political and threat environments will continue to challenge policymakers as to the size and character of the nuclear deterrent for ensuring the nation’s security. While the nation’s dependence on nuclear weapons has been reduced, nuclear weapons nevertheless remain fundamental to deterrence.

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